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EMBARC UPDATE: Building a Safe Maritime Industry (April 5, 2022)

CURRENT AS OF APRIL 5, 2022

In November 2021, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) temporarily paused at-sea training for midshipmen, known as cadets while at sea, at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) so that MARAD could develop and, consistent with a request from Members of Congress, make public new policies and procedures to improve safety for cadets at sea—and indeed for all mariners—on commercial vessels, by strengthening efforts to prevent sexual assault and harassment, support survivors, and hold perpetrators accountable.  

The plan consists of two components. First, the “Every Mariner Builds a Respectful Culture” (EMBARC) program, which was introduced on December 15, 2021, sets forth new requirements that commercial carriers are required to meet to be eligible to carry USMMA cadets. Then, on December 22, USMMA issued a new Superintendent Instruction to govern USMMA’s Sea Year and a revised Sea Year guide for midshipmen. These documents set forth new policies and procedures at the Academy to strengthen the support we provide to cadets, including policies regarding the use of the new satellite phones cadets are given while they are at sea as well as a new amnesty policy for midshipmen who experience or witness sexual assault or harassment.

On December 22, MARAD lifted the Sea Year pause.  Initial embarkations began on ships operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and U.S. Navy, as well as training vessels operated by State Maritime Academies. 

On March 30, 2022, consistent with our commitment to continuously improve safety for cadets at sea, MARAD published EMBARC in the Federal Register as a “Request for Comments.” With this request MARAD seeks opinions and suggestions from the public on how EMBARC may be amended to enhance our support for midshipmen.

Enrollments

To date, five commercial companies have enrolled in the EMBARC program, and our commercial embarkations are increasing. Other operators and ship managers are making policy changes to meet the EMBARC standards, and we have published and continue to update Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to address issues that have been raised by carriers as they review EMBARC. We anticipate additional enrollments shortly.  

Sea Year Training

Sea Year is a cooperative educational program designed to give midshipmen hands-on shipboard training to meet U.S. Coast Guard licensing requirements. Sea Year Training typically consists of an approximately four-month sailing period during a midshipman’s sophomore year and an eight-month sailing period during a midshipman’s junior year.

Since December 2021, USMMA midshipmen have earned sea time on nine commercial vessels and more than 50 government vessels, as well as three training ships. MSC has assured they will be able to provide sufficient billets on board their ships to enable the Class of 2023 to earn the sea time they need to graduate on time. MSC has typically provided approximately 25% of Sea Year training time for cadets.  

Currently, all 121 eligible and qualified students from the A sailing split of the Class of 2023 are earning sea time on vessels or are scheduled to do so. All are anticipated to graduate on time.  

Should there be any midshipmen from the Class of 2023 who, as a result of unanticipated circumstances, are unable to accumulate the required sea time before the date on which they would normally take the licensing exams in Spring 2023, the Coast Guard will allow them to take their licensing exams as scheduled and then make up any deficit in their sea time after the exam. USMMA will ensure all midshipmen obtain their required sea time in coordination with our interagency partners and commercial carriers.  No midshipmen will leave the Academy without receiving all sea time required to obtain their licenses.  

USMMA Safety and Culture Updates 

  • Pursuant to MARAD guidance, USMMA will provide satellite phones to cadets while they are at sea. The phones can be used by at-sea cadets to report back to USMMA, or to contact anyone in their personal support network (family, friends, mentors, Academy faculty or staff, etc.) as needed.
  • In an effort to remove a barrier to reporting, USMMA updated and re-issued a revised Collateral Misconduct (Amnesty) policy which protects cadets at sea from discipline that could otherwise occur pursuant to the Midshipman Regulations for misconduct occurring at or near the time of the commission of sexual assault, sexual or gender-based harassment, relationship violence, or stalking, whether such wrongdoing occurred on campus, at sea, or off campus.
  • First Class midshipmen formed a Sea Year mentorship group. Volunteers are assigned to each embarking cadet and provide an at-shore resource for cadets at sea to discuss any issue or challenge of concern to them. These mentors provide a Sea Year-experienced ear should a sailing cadet need one. 

Engagement

MARAD continues to conduct extensive inter-agency and industry outreach.  MARAD has hosted dozens of listening and feedback sessions with midshipmen, faculty, staff, coaches, alumni, the state maritime academies, carriers, labor, the Coast Guard, MSC, the USMMA parents association, and Congress to strengthen safety throughout the maritime industry. These engagements continue to generate thoughtful collaboration.  

Next Steps

Pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2022, MARAD will establish a new Federal Advisory Committee. This committee, which was recommended by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) as part of its Organizational Assessment of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy November 2021 report, will provide advice and recommendations on issues identified by NAPA. The solicitation for committee member applications will be available on the Federal Register until May 20, 2022.  

We know we must continue to identify and eliminate barriers to help combat sexual assault and sexual harassment in the maritime industry. Safety for cadets remains our north star, and we remain committed to continuing efforts to strengthen USMMA, to keep ongoing dialogue open and honest, and to provide the resources needed to ensure USMMA midshipmen receive world-class educations.

Additional updates will be made available Summer 2022.